Landscape 'key to place-making'

Battersea Power Station Development Company design chief outlines range of important factors.

Battersea: power station plans
Battersea: power station plans

Parks, green space, roof gardens and the public realm are hugely important to place-making, Battersea Power Station Development Company head of design and placement David Twohig has told HW.

In his new book about placemaking,  Living in Wonderland: Urban development and placemaking (Harriman House), Twohig warns that the UK's cities are in danger of being overrun with "bland, homogenous developments" within the next decade and a half.

"Over the next 15 years China is set to urbanise 300 million people and build the equivalent urban area of North America," he said.

"London alone is set to grow by two million people by 2030. This is the greatest period of urbanisation in human history and yet the buildings and places we are designing and developing leave a great deal to be desired."

In the book he looks at retail, residential and leisure spaces around the world and concludes that new developments "lack the social infrastructure, good architecture and estate management required to establish a sense of community."

"China is fantastic about the big picture but you don’t live in these big spaces every day, you want to go to somewhere more intimate. A lot of the developing nations fail to provide intimate spaces, that’s a big challenge. In India sometimes the infrastructure comes later and sometimes not at all," he told HW.

Twohig said the Goulgon area of Delhi is incredible. "It has shopping centres, office builds, homes and no public realm between them. People drive everywhere."

At Battersea, Twohig said the 2.5ha riverside park, Andy Sturgeon-designed roof gardens and other gardens on the site are central to creating a place where people want to live and visit. He added that development without good-quality public realm "leads to a depressing place" and its role is "hugely neglected".

"There is no point creating beautiful architecture without the public realm spaces that go between them," he said. "A lot of residential properties are designed so they are just good enough."

Twohig, who is from Kinsale in Ireland and has worked in Dublin and Beijing, developed a 16ha site in central London - where one-bedroom flats priced at £1m will go on sale on 1 May.

He said the 2.5ha park, to be created by LDA Design, fronting the original power station building is needed to give the monumental building "space to breathe".

"We have a halo masterplan. The power station sits in the centre of the site. Water bodies create reflective views. We wanted to protect the view along the river and create one of the most unique new parks in London."

He said it is "hugely important" to have a hierarchy of spaces. "Each building has a courtyard with a one-acre garden. They can drop into the fun of the main park or have the security that their children can play safely in the courtyard. Roofs are our best opportunity to further green London, rather than leaving the best views in the capital to air-conditioner units."

"When I came to London Kensington Roof Gardens was London's go-to roof destination with planted pink flamingos. London's improved a lot but it's got a way to go. We're greening all the roofs at Battersea. We're putting all the plant underground and creating green roofs and brown roofs."

Farrell Review - Understanding of 'PLACE'

The Farrell Review into architecture and the built environment, published this week, calls for a new understanding of "PLACE" - bringing together planning, landscape, architecture, conservation and engineering.

In his report, Sir Terry Farrell says he recognises that the public realm has suffered through our current planning system. "Appropriate funding for landscape and public art should be demanded from developers by local authorities," he adds.

Landscape Institute president Sue Illman said the report is "a major step forward in recognising the need to fully integrate planning and design".

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